In 2008, when Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic presidential primary race to Barack Obama, she had some words of hope for her millions of supporters: “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” she said. “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”
For the past year, Clinton supporters – and much of the media and pollsters – believed she was right. That this time the path would be easier, and that in the year 2016, the United States would elect its first female president.
And while Tuesday’s election put almost 57 million cracks in that glass ceiling, it still wasn’t enough to shatter it, and Donald J. Trump was elected 45th president of the United States.
In an election marked by vitriol and crassness, where hacks, leaked videos, FBI investigations and claims of sexual assault took center stage more often than policies, the gravity of finally electing a woman to lead the US was often lost.
But for many, that dream was still their focus.
The website Iwaited96years.com documented women voting for Clinton who were born before the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was passed in 1920.
Estelle Liebow Schultz, 98, of Rockville, Maryland, said, “To see such an accomplishment in my lifetime is momentous.”
Sylvia Schulman, 99, of Oceanside, New York, said, “It’s nice to show my granddaughter and great-granddaughter that the sky is the limit, and they can do anything a man can do.”
In upstate New York, where women’s-rights activist Susan B. Anthony was laid to rest, hundreds of women came on a pilgrimage of sorts to pay respects to the woman who, perhaps, started it all. By Tuesday evening, her gravestone was covered with “I Voted” stickers, a fitting tribute to the suffragette who cast an illegal vote for president in 1872.
So many women arrived at the site, the cemetery extended their hours to accommodate them all.
And at the Clinton rally in the Javits Center on Tuesday night, that theme was also on proud display.
“Hillary Clinton is the one who got me off the sidelines,” said New York Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, addressing supporters at the rally as election results were just beginning to filter in.
“I was just a young lawyer in New York, and I saw that as first lady she went to China,” she said. “Do you remember that moment? She stood on that stage, and she said ‘women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights’ once and for all. That took courage, that took vision, it took leadership. We need our role models, and we have to understand what this woman means for the world.”
While supporters of all ages, genders and races packed the Javits Center on election night, there was no denying the presence and giddiness of young women, many of whom weren’t even eligible to vote when Clinton made her first run eight years ago.
“I’ve been volunteering since the primaries, I’ve made calls, I went to Pennsylvania to canvass,” said Talia Klein, 25. “I think she’s the most qualified person who’s ever run for president. The fact that she’s a woman – that’s not the only thing. But if a woman gets elected president tonight, that will change the course of history.”
There’s no question the course of history has changed with the election of Trump.
But the question remains: What will become of that cracked, splintered, fractured glass ceiling? Will it finally be shattered in my lifetime?